The grandeur of heaven eludes the corrupted soul, and only those who can see with their eyes and their minds can observe the light, brighter than any sun. (III, 10, p. 92).
Boethius has told us that all humans innately desire happiness and that God exists. Next, he argues that perfect happiness can be found only in God.
God is Happiness. The central question upon which Boethius focuses is that of obtaining happiness and by what means we can do so, and in this chapter, the question is answered. Here, in the very middle of the book, we learn that God is equivalent to happiness. In understanding that true happiness is only in Him, we discover what we must do to acquire it: pursue God, or divinity.
Humans and Divinity. In a remarkable passage, Boethius explains the concept that is central to the entirety of the book and acts as the interpretive key to all chapters before and after. Prior to this point, Boethius only discusses humans’ quests for happiness; however, this point serves as a bridge between human happiness and God, proving that they are interdependent, as humans cannot approach happiness without divinity.
Now just as men become just by acquiring justice, and wise by acquiring wisdom, so by the same argument they must become gods once they have acquired divinity. Hence every happy person is God: God is by nature one only, but nothing prevents the greatest possible number from sharing in that divinity. **
This is a difficult passage to fully understand. What Boethius seems to be saying is that even once those who have sought divinity become divinized, they are god-like without being God, thus they can never obtain true happiness, only participate in that which is possessed by God. Since humans desire happiness, which only exists in God, we must strive to become as similar to god as possible in order to experience something reminiscent of true happiness. The quote suggests that we can all become divine. While God may have the ownership of happiness, it is still available for all to partake in.
Why is this good for us to know? The concept that God is the key to happiness is both comforting and useful to us. Instead of seeking true happiness falsely through materialistic means, Boethius asserts that we must only pursue God. It gives hope to people with low income or those without power that they can still attain happiness. It also provides a more welcoming view of religion. We, in understanding this concept, are far more likely to turn to God, as we know that through Him we will find happiness. In addition, as “nothing prevents the greatest number from sharing in that divinity,” religion and happiness become far more inclusive, a concept that is appealing to everyone, as we know that happiness is not bestowed upon the select few but is free to the many so long as they pursue God.
The argument that is presented regarding our search for happiness is logical, such that man wants happiness or goodness, which can only be found in the being possessing true goodness: God. It is a refreshing concept in juxtaposition to naive ideas regarding Christianity. While God is recognized as good in both philosophy and Christianity, the general perception of God from a more naïve Christian standpoint is that he is more authoritative and omnipotent as opposed to the being through which one seeks happiness. God as presented in the Old Testament is reminiscent of a disciplinarian, the being who punishes man for his sins, whereas believing in God in a more philosophical fashion makes the practice of religion appear far less daunting, not only in the practice itself but also in the more benevolent concept that God can be utilized to achieve the ideal end of happiness. Philosophy according to Boethius is exciting due to its positivity, for the pursuit of God is the pursuit of happiness. Consequently, everyone should seek God because participating in his happiness is the only means of ever reaching true happiness. The portrayal of God in Boethius is liberating and comforting, providing a more positive view of religion and the God to whom we desire to be.
** For this point, have used the translation of P.G. Walsh, which we feel is more accurate. See Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. P.G. Walsh. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .